It's not all fun and games. That ridiculous clown up there making us laugh has an inner life too, and sometimes it hurts. In a profound and quite enjoyable workshop with master clown René Bazinet, the topic of demons popped up. Rewarded for their failures, applauded for their most embarrassing moments, clowns are reinforced for roughly the opposite of what is normal behavior. For those who lap up attention and approval (are there really performers who don't?), such conditions can produce some mighty twisted stuff. So in performances that invite intimacy and truth, we are sure to see clown innards
Psychology + Zen = Philosophy and methods to relieve suffering and reveal happiness.
Psychology: We project onto others what we reject in ourselves. Some call it a Shadow. Healing comes from making the unconscious conscious, taking responsibility for our projections, integrating what is split off as our own thing.
Zen: There is no separate self. When we can be at one with every aspect, then we belong everywhere and we reject no one.
We heal the world by becoming intimate with our whole selves.
Do clowns have a purpose? Those of you who are old enough may understand what happens as you begin to glimpse mortality.On occasion at least, the inclination to cling to this narrow self drops away and we begin to consider what we transmit to the ever-changing world in which we have such a teeny cameo. Whether or not we plan it, we do transmit, and so it is with clowns, but some use the platform to show us something important.
"It's not as big as I thought," observed the clown after he stripped. This was the second time in one weekend I was treated to a naked penis on stage (no, I will not tell you which performances; it's a surprise). What better way to reveal powerlessness beneath bravado? It's a theme I've seen again and again in the NY Clown Theatre Festival,
Love and War. What else is there? Ok, there are dishes to do, so we can stop and think about love, or war, or the love of war, or the war of love. Freud famously obsessed about sex and aggression, even when all those other stressed-out Victorians tried not to notice. Civilization depends on good manners, so you can be sure that the clown, who treads where ordinary humans are too polite to go, will usually be mucking around in love or war, or both together. In my last post, I extolled the virtues of "Fuck You!" in freeing the clown to play. But...Love. Love is what powers the clown. Love is why the clown meets the audience, well mostly, anyway.
In the marvelous Burden of Poof, the shimmeringly vulnerable Poofy du Vey expresses her struggle with her longing for love. As she goes into the audience to find helpers, we can see she is both terrified and compelled to connect. Don't we often make neat little systems to contain screamingly undefinable important matters? Poofy makes a touching to-do list, containing perfectly normal tasks, and,
Finally, the clown took stock, gathered herself, and delivered the message to the teacher: fuck you.
I gasped, then exhaled to partake in the laughter. "More of that," said the teacher, and the clown delivered: "FUCK YOUUU!!"...middle finger in full salute, body crouched, shaking with rage and pride, she expressed the truth of her experience, and it was absolutely hilarious.
Why is it that I love clowns so thoroughly and yet so many of my friends tell me they fear and loathe them? Ok, I understand that they look ridiculous, do silly things, and sometimes embarrass the audience, but scary?? loathsome???
Lumping all the clowns together for now (even if they don’t like each other’s company), I include circus clowns, theatrical clowns, tricksters and jokers, court jesters with surprising insights, various imbeciles, happy-birthday-party clowns, bouffons, and provocative wise fools. All these characters have a way of breaking the rules that we so carefully follow.
A brilliant and articulate volunteer guides us through interpretations of “A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby" and the public reaction. I hope you can forgive the limits of the iphone4. As a friend and collaborator says often, the best camera is the one you have on hand. I just had to share what I learned from this installation, all melted and destroyed now, at the former Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn.
Today a client lamented that no matter how well she prioritized, constant impingements from ‘the feed’ kept taking her attention. This is our world. No matter what job we get or freedom we attain from this or that obligation, data continues to come at us, and asks for an instant response. We buy something and we’re not done. We have to complete a survey—about the product, the merchant, the delivery service and then the survey. Could we have improved the experience of taking a survey? I’m only little bit kidding. The need for feedback seems to fold in on itself as it multiplies in some kind of quantum equation I am not qualified to generate.
Sit with it, psychology supervisors would say in grad school. She needs to sit with her sadness, guilt, dilemma, etc. In practice, I learned that most clients interpret this as submitting to their inner attacker until it hurts a lot, really really enough, and then, having done their duty, getting back to what’s actually fun and lively. Fortunately, as I sat in my own meditation, I was able to clarify the process and then guide clients through it. Sitting with it means that we allow the connection between thoughts and feelings to dissolve. When they stop reinforcing each other, we are freed from repetitive loops and we can actually move on, not just push through.
But here’s the thing: When stuff feels awful, we work pretty hard at this. We get good at identifying our inner critical introjects and naming them as thoughts and not obeying them and returning to our sensation and All That. Because we want to feel better, right? But then we do. We feel better. And then we’re done, we think. No more pain. I graduated. But… then… alas. It slips away. What happened to that good feeling?
That’s the question in the air, along with